Firefighters Making Progress, but Bracing for Record Heat This Week
The Hungry Horse Reservoir is closed to all public access, including both the east and west side roads. As firefighting efforts continue on the Ridge Fire, the Tin Soldier Complex, and other fires in the area, the closure is in place to provide for public and firefighter safety. Click HERE for more.
The Flathead County Sheriff’s Office has issued a pre-evacuation notice from the east side of Spotted Bear Road to West Glacier
The American Red Cross has set up an emergency shelter at Columbia Falls Junior High School for residents affected by the Ridge Fire. Those who plan to use the emergency shelter are asked to call 1-800-733-2767 prior to your arrival.
Here are the latest reports on the larger fires in the state, supplied by InciWeb:
Yesterday at the southern edge of the 3132-acre fire, the handline with containment held with no spread toward Emery Bay Campground or Boat Launch. Engine companies installed hose lays there and are extinguishing heat found near the line. Crews continued to construct direct handline along the western edge. They have progressed into a designated area called Research Natural Area (RNA). The RNA is an area with long term research-based studies. It is managed by the Flathead National Forest and the Rocky Mountain Research Station. On the northern edge of the fire, bulldozers have constructed direct and indirect fire line. Steep terrain soon will become too dangerous to proceed with bulldozers. As hand crews complete fire lines along the western edge, they will pick up where the dozers left off and continue line construction to the east. Along the Emery Creek Road, engines were extinguishing hot spots on both sides of the road. Heli-rappelers constructed a heli-spot near Hungry Horse Mountain. This heli-spot was constructed to gain access to the less accessible fire area on the eastern edge when resource finish the priority of community protection on the western flank..
Today, crews will continue direct line on the southern edge of the fire, where there is 5% of containment. They will progress west and north extending further into the RNA in their progress to connect with the dozer lines on the northern edge. The bulldozers on the northern edge of the fire will be scouting ridges access and secondary fire lines. Air resources will continue to drop water on the eastern edge of the fire to slow its progression and assist ground crews to cool the fires edge. Structure protection assessments continue. The efforts are not only increasing awareness of the community for the Ridge Fire but will provide guidance to local agencies in case of future evacuations needs.
Today’s weather is forecast to be mostly sunny with a maximum temperature of 85 degrees, minimum relative humidity of 20% at lower elevations, with winds being light and terrain driven.
There has been no change reported in the status of the Sidney Fire, since last Wednesday. The fire is 12 miles south of East Glacier and 16-miles west of Heart Butte, in the northwest tip of the Pondera County panhandle. An IR flight conducted on Sunday (Aug. 6) showed the fire is 49 acres in size, and burning near footprints from fires in 2007 and 2017, which is aiding firefighters, since fuels in these footprints are less dense.
The following trails remain closed due to fire activity:
- Trail 101 from the junction of 101 and 133.
- Trails 133, from Summit Trailhead, and Trail 133.1, from -Summit Campground, to where these 2 trails join Trail 137.
- Trail 134 from Forest Road 8958 to the junction with Trail 137.
- Trail 137 from the Trail 133/133.1 junction to the Trail 137/101 junction.
- TTrail 136 which runs between Trails 101 and 137.
ROGERS PASS FIRE
As of Sunday, August 13, the Rogers Pass Fire was 100% contained, at 49 acres.
The Colt Fire near Seely Lake is 7207 acres in size.
Crews have constructed handline and equipment lines around the majority of the fire. The fire edge without handline or equipment line are areas of the fire that are fully contained. Along the eastern edge of the fire, crews have removed the majority of pumps and hose lays.
Crews will continue to mop-up areas along the fire’s perimeter. Most of the mop-up activities will be in the heavy fuels along the fire’s southwestern edge that continue to hold heat.
The Incident Meteorologist released weather balloon yesterday and gained valuable insight into inversions in the area as well as wind directions and speeds over the fire. Temperatures are expected to reach into the 80s today at higher elevations in the fire area and upwards of 90 degrees in the lower elevation areas. Relative humidities will likely be between 15-20 percent. These conditions, with the addition of gusty winds on Wednesday and Thursday, could result in critical fire conditions as well as red flag warnings later in the week.\
Aerial resources assisted the Flathead National Forest with a new fire start near Lindy Peak yesterday. This new fire start is northwest of the Colt Fire.
NIARADA FIRE & MILL POCKET FIRE
Strategic firing operations to help add to containment are likely to occur today on a small section on the south side of the Niarada Fire, which has grown to 20.365 acres, 12 miles west of Elmo. Fighting fire with fire, firefighters will ignite the vegetation along prepared firelines to burn fuels between the lines and the wildfire’s edge.These operations will cause additional smoke in the afternoon and will be conducted if conditions are right.
Crews continue to assess, patrol and mop up (cool areas containing heat) around much of the remaining fire perimeter. Areas on the fire's east and south sides show increased smoke with the hotter and drier conditions. These are primarily interior pockets of fuels continuing to burn out. With the predicted hot weather, expect more smoke in the coming days.
Structure protection crews continue to work outside Elmo toward Big Arm, testing sprinkler systems and pumps while working with landowners on additional vegetation management around structures.
Progress continues on the nearby Mill Pocket Fire as containment increases. The 2,135 acre fire is now 89% contained. Much of the remaining perimeter is in mop-up and patrol status. Some heat remains in steep scree slopes on the northwestern side, and firefighters continue to work in this area, mopping up hot spots where they can access them. Helicopters continue to drop water as needed.
MIDDLE RIDGE FIRE
The 13,000 acre Middle Ridge Fire west of Ronan is 25% contained. Crews continue to mop up and put out any hot spots along the entire fire line.
COMMUNICATION BUTTE FIRE
The Communication Butte Fire north of Dixon is estimated at 1,423 acres and is 35% contained. Firefighters have completed a containment line is around the fire. Mop up is underway.
BIG KNIFE FIRE
The Big Knife Fire is 4952-acres this morning, burning 5 miles east of Arlee. The fire is now 7% contained.
On Sunday, fire activity increased as expected as temperatures got hotter and humidity levels lower. On the north perimeter at Gold Creek, helicopters utilized water to check the fire’s edge. Crews will continue to call on aircraft as needed.
Around the southwest edge, crews are assessing the fire’s progress to see if it comes down the slopes to control lines. Crews are also preparing canal roads for better egress.
On the south end of the fire in the Agency Creek drainage, the Craig Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew began work to finish hazard tree mitigation and scouted opportunities to go direct. They installed hoses to tie into several prominent scree slopes and will continue working the fire’s edge, moving further up the canyon.
To the east of the fire, sprinkler systems and pumps are in place around several pieces of infrastructure and the Jocko Lookout. The lookout has been covered with a fire-resistant wrap.
TIN SOLDIER COMPLEX
An area closure remains in effect for the Hungry Horse Reservoir, the front country of the Spotted Bear district as well the Gorge Creek drainage within the Bob Marshall Wilderness area.
The Tin Soldier Complex is estimated at 2,694 acres in size and remains 0% contained. There was no IR flight last night therefore an update on acreage is not available at this time. The fires are located 17 miles east of Swan Lake.
Acres burned as of the morning of Monday, August 14th.
• Bruce Fire – 1002 acres at 0% containment
• Kah Mtn Fire – 451 acres at 0% containment
• Sullivan Fire – 1,241 acres at 0% containment
• Con Kelly Fire – 0.25 acres – Out.
The Bruce, Kah and Sullivan fires are being managed with point source protection to protect values at risk. Values at risk include Stony Communications Site, hydro-electric plant, Heinrude residential community, commercial guest ranches and the Spotted Bear Ranger Station compound.
Today’s actions will include ongoing structure protection efforts for the Spotted Bear Ranch, Diamond R Ranch, Spotted Bear Ranger Station compound, and the Heinrude residential community. Mechanical equipment finished the fuel break to the north, south and west side of FS Road #895 adjacent to the Heinrude community. Wrapping of Spotted Bear Lookout was completed yesterday afternoon. An evacuation order continues for Heinrude community
High pressure will strengthen over the region beginning today and continue through at least Thursday. Relative humidities will drop into the single digits, leading to more active fire behavior throughout the day and night. Temperatures are expected to increase, with valley high's 90-95F and ridge high's 78-83F. Critical fire weather is possible Wednesday and Thursday due to the combination of hot, dry, and windy conditions.
EAST FORK FIRE
This 1420-acre is located 12 miles south of Trego. There is now indirect containment line around the entire fire, including direct line and hose lay around approximately 80% of the fire. Crews continue to implement direct line and hose lay on the rest of the fire and continue with mop up operations. The fire mainly continues to burn interiorly, cleaning up unburned fuels so helicopters are being utilized to knock down hot spots and cool the edge of the fire.
GRAVEL PIT FIRE
This 304-acre fire is 25 miles southeast of Libby, near Silver Butte.
Crews continue with mop-up activities, locating and extinguishing sources of heat to prevent flare-ups from occurring. Engines will move throughout the fire area to locate flare-ups and maintain readiness to respond to any new fire starts that occur. To the southeast, crews will backhaul hose and continue with mop-up activities.
Afternoon temperatures will be near record highs this week with valley locations approaching 100° F. Winds will be light from the north to northeast on the ridges. Mid and lower slopes will see light erratic winds. Fire behavior is low at the moment, with smoldering and creeping, but the potential exists for more active fire behavior with the drying weather pattern in the coming days.
STADIUM CREEK FIRE
Located 17 miles NE of Condon. An IAA (Incident Awareness and Assessment) flight mapped the fire at 70 acres as of Saturday morning, August 12.. The fire has run up the ridgeline to the west of the original start and has been burning northward along the ridge toward the confluence of Stadium and Gorge Creeks. The Spotted Bear Ranger District will continue to monitor the fire and implement point protection strategies to any values at risk as necessary. Firefighter safety will remain the top priority.
BOWLES CREEK FIRE
The Bowles Creek Fire is east of Hamilton, 27 miles southwest of Phillipsburg The lightning-caused fire is 3787 acres, and 5% contained.
Crews on the east side continue to construct a fuel break in the fire area. Chipping operations continue along FS Road 5070 south towards Sand Basin Creek. Snag removal operations continue in the Crystal Creek area. The crews on the west side continue to secure the line down to Railroad Creek, fortify the fire line and install hose lays. Winds today are expected to be light and shift from the west to coming out of the east. Temperatures are expected to reach 85 degrees today. Moderate fire activity potential may increase as continued warmer and dryer weather reduces the relative humidity levels to less than 25 percent.